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Location, Location, Location: The Lewis Canyon Petroglyphs

Solveig A. Turpin
Plains Anthropologist
Vol. 50, No. 195 (August 2005), pp. 307-328
Published by: Maney Publishing on behalf of the Plains Anthropological Society
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25670830
Page Count: 22
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Location, Location, Location: The Lewis Canyon Petroglyphs
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Abstract

In the last 10 years, excavations at the Lewis Canyon site have exposed hundreds of petroglyphs buried beneath a mantle of modern sediment that has been redeposited from the surrounding hills. The new glyphs are radically different from the assemblage recorded in the 1930s, which were predominantly abstract geometric designs augmented by a few realistic animal tracks, projectile points, and human figures. The emergent style is dominated by nested serpentine lines, atlatls with greatly exaggerated weights, human and animal tracks, and a small number of human figures. Some of the latter bear a strong resemblance to warriors depicted in the Red Linear style, a miniature local art form with a very limited distribution. The motivation for the expenditure of so much effort in the production of petroglyphs at this location has long been questioned, but excavation has now also uncovered a large tinaja, capable of holding more than 800 gallons of water and once fed by an underground conduit. The supernatural power of water, and especially water that emerges from a subterranean source, provides the rationale for the production of the older, serpentine glyphs, if not the entire assemblage. The tinaja links Lewis Canyon to a series of smaller sites on the Eldorado Divide, over 100 miles to the northwest and, more subtly, to arid-lands rock art traditions in northern Mexico and the Greater Southwest.

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